Category Archives: Trainings

More training needed to harness the value of green

The following post is by Kathleen O’Brien:

Last month in the DJC Green Building Blog, I discussed the smart move local leaders are making to help monetize social and environmental benefits available from real estate investment in new Living Buildings.  But getting true value out of existing buildings built to more established green building standards can still be a challenge.

Even when major multiple listing services (MLS) incorporated environmental/green (e-cert) checkboxes were introduced for existing green homes in 2008 — and this region was the first in the nation to do so — the appraiser would often end up valuing the home just as they would any other home.   So the added effort, and financial premiums invested in the home, would not be acknowledged. What a disincentive!

Two things were still needed to move the needle— credible data on the premiums for green buildings, and high quality education to produce appraisers competent in this building type. Not surprisingly, our region has been the first to coherently address these needs.

The Green Building Value Initiative — a collaborative effort of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, Built Green, Earth Advantage, and the Cascadia Green Building Council (GBC) — worked together between 2007-2009 hiring appraiser consultants to produce the first credible analysis identifying premiums for commercial buildings and green homes. Researchers were able to analyze green home sales because of the e-cert boxes on MLS forms. The resulting report and case studies for the residential sector are readily available from Earth Advantage Institute or SEEC LLC.  The resulting report for the commercial sector is available from the Cascadia GBC.

SEEC and Earth Advantage are also addressing the second need head on for the residential sector. Both offer highly respected appraisal education.  As a result there are now practicing appraisers that understand green building certifications and can effectively appraise homes that have earned them.

ZHome, a 10-unit townhouse development in Issaquah, was designed to be the country’s first net zero energy multifamily project.

True story: Fiona Douglas-Hamilton, principal of SEEC, reports that the homeowner of a Built Green 5-star home (the highest certification level in that program), hoping to refinance, recently met with an appraiser to get their home valuated.  As advised by SEEC, the homeowner had prepared a packet to give the appraiser.  Upon review, the appraiser declined the job, saying she was not knowledgeable enough about Built Green. The Appraisal Management Company (AMC) then made contact with SEEC, which maintains a list of appraisers who have completed their continuing education courses on valuing green homes.  The homeowners were able to get what they needed.

But appraisers are not the only sector needing information for green homes to be valued correctly.  What if our Built Green home example had been for sale?  It is the rare real estate broker who understands how to list correctly, let alone sell, this property type.  With the recent McGraw Hill report estimating green building market share rising to 38% by 2016, we need educated brokers.  There are, frankly, lots of courses for brokers on marketing green real estate and green building in general, but brokers still need something to help them prepare a green and/or energy efficient home properly for its appraisal — a hurdle every property needs to clear.  There’s a new course launched this month that SEEC  has created specifically for this purpose: Appraising Green and ENERGY STAR Homes: How Agents Affect the Process.

This coming fall the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild’s Olympia Chapter will be conducting a Green Valuation Symposium under the Chapter’s Vision2Action Series.  Intended as a follow-up to a series of green valuation roundtables held in Washington and Idaho last year under the sponsorship of the Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes program, participants will develop action plans to resolve issues identified during the roundtables.

For someone who’s been in the green building arena for nearly 30 years, it’s a delight to see  the “links” in the green building market chain starting to get fixed.

Kathleen O’Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was “cool.” She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O’Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project.


Out of work? The building deconstruction industry is hiring!

This is a guest post by Dave Bennink, owner of Re-Use Consulting. 

This last week has been full of bad news relating to major corporations cutting jobs.  These job cuts are nothing compared to the amount of jobs that have been shipped overseas in the past decades.  Did you know that the City of Buffalo used to have 600,000 people in it and now it only has about 290,000?  First the jobs left and then the people followed.  This has left Buffalo wondering what to do with tens of thousands of abandoned homes. 

So where are we heading?  Jobs disappearing, economic slowdowns and global warming are just the start of our problems.  Fortunately, there is some good news to share:  The building deconstruction industry is creating thousands of green collar jobs, and these jobs cannot be shipped overseas! 

For years, building deconstruction has been much slower and more expensive than demolition.  Building deconstruction is the systematic disassembly of a structure to maximize reuse and recycling.  In recent years, hybrid deconstruction has allowed deconstruction and adaptive reuse companies to take down buildings faster and cheaper, completing 2,000-square-foot homes in 3 to 4 days as one example.  Even with these improvements, building deconstruction still creates 10 to 20 times more jobs than demolition while hoping to achieve an on-site landfill diversion rate of 70 percent or more (before comingled recycling options). 

These are all local jobs that cannot be shipped overseas and we are working to make them living wage jobs requiring different levels of experience and potentially launching workers into other related careers.

One thing that is clear to me is that building owners don’t want their structures demolished, they just want them removed.  Almost everyone I have talked to would rather see the their building moved intact, deconstructed, or at least salvaged or even preserved in place through adaptive reuse as long as it doesn’t take much more time and it doesn’t cost more money.  That helps the building deconstruction contractors by basing their efforts on a solid foundation. 

People realize that deconstruction creates more jobs, helps the environment, preserves local architectural elements, and assists lower-income home owners to maintain their homes.  It is also a sustainable effort, unlike some green solutions that just slow down the problems.  Deconstruction is not just saving energy and resources compared to producing all of those materials new again, but reversing problems like global warming and natural resource depletion. 

In Buffalo, we have begun to think of the streets full of abandoned homes as an asset to the community instead of a liability.  If it is decided that they must be taken down, then by deconstructing them, some of the value they hold is returned to the community, and I can tell you after 16 years in this field, it’s a great feeling knowing that you are making a difference. 

I am excited about efforts by the city of Seattle and King County, among others, to promote building deconstruction. 

The Building Materials Reuse Association is leading the way, holding a conference on the subject in Chicago in April 2009 (  Cities and groups across the Country are starting job training programs by forming deconstruction crews.  Demolition contractors are converting to deconstruction companies by performing deconstruction when their clients ask for it or it makes economic sense.  General contractors hoping to keep their crews from quiting in slow times, are beginning to offer deconstruction to their clients, knowing that they may be able to provide work to their laid-off crews.  Some schools are considering classes on deconstruction and some businesses are forming around the sales of the salvaged materials or the manufacturing of products (like tables, chairs, etc.) made from reclaimed materials. 

So if you are tired of this economic slow down and want to make a difference, join us by considering building deconstruction and considering buying reclaimed materials.  It’s  ‘buying local’ and ’employing local’ all at the same time while heading toward our goal of zero waste.

– Dave Bennink, RE-USE Consulting

Going to Greenbuild? Want to network?

Last year was my first Greenbuild in Chicago and man, was I overwhelmed! Heck, I know I wasn’t the only one, based on the article here I wrote in the DJC. I tell you, me and 23,000 of my closest friends really got to know each other better.

The criticism of that Greenbuild, as quoted in the above article, is that the

This was Greenbuild 2007

conference was “best for beginners,” “too touchy-feely” and too “focused on commercialism.” It will be interesting to see how these issues play out at Greenbuild 2008.

This year in Boston, I’m betting the crowds will be just as big. And thankfully (to my amazing employer), I will be there to witness it yet again and share the experience with you. So if you’re not going, keep your Internet tuned to the DJC Green Building Blog for daily updates on talks, sessions and whatever else comes my way.

If you are going however, and you want to have more than snowball’s chance in a hot sauna of meeting other people from Seattle (last year I recognized a colleague out of the corner of my eye and went running after him, arms flailing so as not to lose sight of him amongst thousands of bodies)… I suggest you visit the Web site Konstructr and sign up for Greenbuild – The Konstructr Delegation. Billed as “the place for construction professionals to connect,” the site is exactly that — plus interesting commentary, events and news articles. If you’re interested in green building at all, you might want to check this out as it seems a great resource.

As for the Greenbuild group, the invitation in my in box cordially invited me to join with this handy description by Vik Duggal:

Anyone who has attended Greenbuild in the past can identify with the
overwhelming number of programs available. And if you are like us, you
probably remember being energized and full of ideas, only to return to
your routine without further discussing or developing these ideas.  We are forming the Konstructr Delegation, which is an offline manifestation of the online community of design professionals we are building, to encourage more interaction during and after the conference.

Sound good? Join up. If you’re going, I’ll see you there (as long as you’re part of this group, that is). And if you’re not, tell me why. And what you’d like me to cover. I can’t promise anything but you never know what you might get if you just ask.

Want to be a Living Building Leader? Try an online course

lb111.jpgIf you’re already a LEED AP, or just want to take your green building education to the next level, the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council has a great opportunity for you.

In June, Cascadia launches ‘Living Building Leader.’ A program designed to go further than LEED and educate participants about the different parts of a living building. The very, very best part of this for people interested in living buildings across the country is it’s an online course, so even if you live in New York City let’s say, you can take it too!

The first session is June 4th. The topic is “spirit and meaning in design” and examines how buildings can celebrate place, culture and the environment. Jason McLennan, CEO of Cascadia, is presenting this topic.

For more about the program, click more Continue reading